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Pakistan PM’s house has gas cut off over unpaid bills

Nawaz-Sharif_2895341bPakistan’s prime minister has become the most high-profile victim of his own push against utility bill defaulters after the gas was cut off to his residence.

Gas company officials said they shut off supplies on Sunday evening after sending a final demand to Nawaz Sharif’s office for arrears of more than £28,000.

Unpaid bills are one of the biggest factors in the country’s crippling power crisis that sees swathes of the country disconnected for hours every day.

A spokesman for Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited said the prime minister’s residence and a string of other government buildings were cut off over bills totalling almost £100,000.

The move had been made, he added, after Mr Sharif himself ordered the crackdown.

He said repeat notices had been ignored and that the buildings would be reconnected when payments had been made.

The episode will be seized on by Mr Sharif’s opponents as yet another example of inefficiency at the highest levels – or a fresh symptom of the corruption that has plagued the country for years.

The timing could not be more embarrassing.

Only five days earlier Mr Sharif – elected last year to overhaul Pakistan’s moribund economy – ordered tough action to be taken against electricity and gas bill defaulters to help ease the energy crisis.

He put the country on what he called a “war footing” against energy theft.

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However, government departments are frequently cited as the worst offenders, responsible for creating “circular debt”, which means power generating companies do not have the finances to buy fuel and keep the national grid supplied with electricity.

Such is the state of the crisis that ministries have ordered workers to wear light, loose clothing in summer to reduce the reliance on air conditioning.

An official in the prime minister’s secretariat blamed “slackness” in government departments for delays in paying their dues.

“This sends a message to the whole country. If even the prime minister can be cut off then nobody is above the law,” he said on Tuesday, adding that the bill had been now been paid.

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